The Spirit of EDH – Ghave, Guru of Tokens


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Hello everyone! I’m Literally a Ghost That Pushes Over Candles and welcome back to The Spirit of EDH. After finally resolving my last turn from my last article, which ended in nine Craterhoof Behemoths, it’s time to play a deck a little more fiddly and a lot more creature token creation than Riku could even dream of. We’re talking, of course, about the Guru of Spores himself, king of counters and creatures, Ghave. Even for such a focused commander like this, there are a thousand ways to build and focus a deck helmed by this particular Fungus. Now, before we talk more about my individual focuses and card choices, let’s take a look at the decklist as a whole:

Creatures (29)
1 x Hangarback Walker
1 x Rhys the Redeemed
1 x Blood Artist
1 x Metallic Mimic
1 x Scavenging Ooze
1 x Voice of Resurgence
1 x Winding Constrictor
1 x Dauntless Escort
1 x Eternal Witness
1 x Generous Patron
1 x Mentor of the Meek
1 x Ravenous Slime
1 x Slimefoot, the Stowaway
1 x Twilight Drover
1 x Bloodspore Thrinax
1 x Bloodtracker
1 x Corpsejack Menace
1 x Elenda, the Dusk Rose
1 x Shalai, Voice of Plenty
1 x Smothering Abomination
1 x Archangel of Thune
1 x Juniper Order Ranger
1 x Kalonian Hydra
1 x Loyal Guardian
1 x Mazirek, Kraul Death Priest
1 x Tendershoot Dryad
1 x Trostani Discordant
1 x Vigor
1 x Craterhoof Behemoth

Planeswalkers (2)
1 x Huatli, Radiant Champion
1 x Elspeth, Sun's Champion
Commander
1 x Ghave, Guru of Spores

Spells (31)
1 x Animation Module
1 x Hardened Scales
1 x Skullclamp
1 x Assassin's Trophy
1 x Aura Mutation
1 x Cryptolith Rite
1 x Heroic Intervention
1 x Necrogenesis
1 x Song of Freyalise
1 x Abzan Ascendancy
1 x Abzan Charm
1 x Attrition
1 x Aura Shards
1 x Chord of Calling
1 x Cultivate
1 x Growing Rites of Itlimoc
1 x March of the Multitudes
1 x Parting Thoughts
1 x Anointed Procession
1 x Deathreap Ritual
1 x Glare of Subdual
1 x Parallel Lives
1 x Utter End
1 x Cathars' Crusade
1 x Divine Visitation
1 x Doubling Season
1 x Primal Vigor
1 x Unburial Rites
1 x Windgrace's Judgment
1 x Death's Presence
1 x Ready // Willing
Lands (37)
1 x Canopy Vista
1 x Command Tower
1 x Fetid Heath
4 x Forest
1 x Gavony Township
1 x Godless Shrine
1 x Golgari Rot Farm
1 x Grim Backwoods
1 x Hissing Quagmire
1 x Isolated Chapel
1 x Llanowar Reborn
1 x Murmuring Bosk
1 x Opal Palace
1 x Orzhov Basilica
1 x Overgrown Tomb
4 x Plains
1 x Sandsteppe Citadel
1 x Selesnya Sanctuary
1 x Stirring Wildwood
1 x Sunpetal Grove
3 x Swamp
1 x Temple Garden
1 x Temple of Malady
1 x Temple of Plenty
1 x Temple of Silence
1 x Westvale Abbey
1 x Windbrisk Heights
1 x Wooded Bastion
1 x Woodland Cemetery

The Sage Himself

Now, these cards can be split up into three categories, not including generally good cards like Cultivate or Eternal Witness. In the same way, Ghave’s card can be split into three parts, even though he only really has two activated abilities:

1. (1), Remove a +1/+1 counter from a creature you control: Create a 1/1 green Saproling creature token.
2. (1), Sacrifice a Creature: Put a +1/+1 counter on target creature.

Ghave also enters the battlefield with five +1/+1 counters on him, facilitating his abilities without the need for existing spore-born. The Shaman of the Forests of Drakkus can create Saproling tokens, move around +1/+1 counters, as well as offer a powerful sacrifice outlet. These are the three categories that our deck aims to take advantage of. Rather than feeling weaker because of a split focus, these three themes overlap considerably and, in fact, most of our cards fit into multiple of these categories rather than just one. The result is a deck where every card feels like the pieces to a complex puzzle, fitting together however they need to.

Our cards work so well together, in fact, our plan is often simply to cycle cards through Ghave. Sure, on the base level, we can remove a single counter from Ghave, receive a single creature in return, then turn that creature back into a token for no net gain. However, when we have something that increases the number of counters we get while moving, the amount of creature tokens we receive, or offers us rewards for sacrificing creatures, removing one counter creates two creatures, then sacrificing that creature draws us a card, drains a life from each opponent, and puts two counters back on Ghave. This is the type of synergy our deck is out to create.

We’re going to talk about each section in turn and, unlike previous articles, we’re going to discuss some additional cards you could add, cards I chose not to add, and the notable cards from that section that may, or may not, include some amount of spice. This will help you take the deck in whatever direction you want, beefing up some portions or pulling away from others. One last thing before the breakdown, there are four cards that appear in all categories which I will be talking about in a separate section, called Ghave’s Best. I wasn’t sure whether to include them first, or last, so I settled on last but mentioning them first. Got it? Good.

The Sporeborn and Sympathizers

1 x Hangarback Walker
1 x Rhys the Redeemed
1 x Voice of Resurgence
1 x Dauntless Escort
1 x Mentor of the Meek
1 x Slimefoot, the Stowaway
1 x Twilight Drover
1 x Elenda, the Dusk Rose
1 x Tendershoot Dryad
1 x Trostani Discordant

1 x Huatli, Radiant Champion
1 x Elspeth, Sun's Champion

1 x Aura Mutation
1 x Heroic Intervention
1 x Chord of Calling
1 x Ready // Willing


1 x March of the Multitudes

1 x Animation Module

1 x Cryptolith Rite
1 x Necrogenesis
1 x Abzan Ascendancy
1 x Growing Rites of Itlimoc
1 x Anointed Procession
1 x Glare of Subdual
1 x Parallel Lives
1 x Divine Visitation
1 x Doubling Season
1 x Primal Vigor

1 x Westvale Abbey

Our first section is cards that interact with Tokens. Now, this includes cards that create tokens, cards that get better with go-wide themes, and cards that reference tokens specifically.

Mentor of the Meek – This seems like an obvious card, but for those people that read my articles learning how to make or customize their own commander decks, Mentor’s power can’t be understated. This is the type of card that, if you untap with this and your commander, you can refill your hand quite easily. It’s so powerful at drawing cards, in fact, that the Council of Colors considers it a color-pie break to draw cards so efficiently in white. Well, it exists, and us commander players have to use whatever we have access to.

Tendershoot Dryad – A card that seems very similar to Verdant Force, creating a Saproling during each upkeep whether it be yours or your opponent. The difference is instead of getting an eight mana 7/7, you get a five mana 2/2. There is one other benefit to Tendershoot Dryad over Verdant Force, in that after you have ten or more permanents, Tendershoot Dryad gives +2/+2 to all your Saprolings, even if you go below ten permanents after the fact. Those are the same tokens your commander creates, by the way, meaning that the anthem can boost more than just the tokens the Dryad creates.

Trostani Discordant – A lord for all your disparate creatures, Trostani comes with two friends. That would be enough for me to enjoy this card, acting as a creature-based anthem that comes with benefits to being recurred if need be. There is text on the bottom half of this card that seems like trinket-text in the current Standard environment, not coming up too often. However in Commander, mind-controlling effects aren’t uncommon and even stealing Trostani isn’t good enough to stop this effect. They’ll need to permanently deal with the Dryad trio to steal a creature of yours.

Huatli, Radiant Champion – A planeswalker that seems similar to Gideon, Champion of Justice also known as Bad Gideon, Huatli grows based on your creatures rather than your opponents. This means in this deck, it’s very easy to get her up 6 or 7 loyalty in one use of her plus ability. This means the idea of getting more than one Huatli emblem isn’t just a pipe dream and drawing cards each time a creature enters the battlefield under your control is amazingly powerful. As well, Huatli’s -1 can turn a single attacker into a sizable threat. Being difficult to remove by having so much loyalty is just another benefit.

Chord of Calling and March of the Multitudes – Instant speed cards with Convoke. That’s really all there is to it. This means that you can leave up just your creatures, not mana if you don’t want to spoil your plans, then tapping your creatures to pay for the spell in full on the previous player’s end step. An instant speed army, tapping everything to get ten or more soldiers, or finding a key piece to your alpha strike, as well as having early game utility when needed to protect you makes these cards both worthwhile additions.

Anointed Procession, Parallel Lives, Doubling Season and Primal Vigor – These are the first cards we’re going to talk about that make exponential value where there might not have been. Doubling the production of our tokens, as well as our counters as in Doubling Season or Primal Vigor, these cards are the bread and butter of decks like this. If they’re not removed or you get multiple of them, your deck grows out of hand faster than you could believe. Turning a counter into four bodies, then one of those into multiple counters then even more bodies… It gets out of hand fast.

Dauntless Escort, Heroic Intervention, and Ready//Willing – Do not overextend. In any deck that you want to go wide, you need to resist the temptation to overextend onto the board so that if someone does throw out a board-wipe you’re left crippled beyond repair. However, these are cards that can help stem that damage. If your opponent is hoping to just wrath away your board, these can protect you from that damage, making your board indestructible in response. These aren’t exceptions to that opening line though, and there is a reason people play Merciless Eviction. Do not overextend when you don’t need to deploy more threats.

The Spice and the Additions
Divine Visitation – A new inclusion from Guilds of Ravnica, this Enchantment replaces whatever creature token would be created under your control with that many Serra Angels. This does remove some number of synergies, such as with Slimefoot, the Stowaway, the aforementioned Tendershoot Dryad, and Mentor of the Meek, which is why I think it’s more of a spicy inclusion than the protein of this meal. The benefit, though, is a board full of powerful fliers that also have vigilance. Tendershoot Dryad may not be able to anthem up its creations any longer, but getting a free Serra Angel on each upkeep cannot be understated.

If you wanted to make a more token-focused deck, more cards that independantly create tokens like Mycoloth, Thelonite Hermit, Verdeloth the Ancient, Jade Mage, or Avenger of Zendikar, more cards that help out your tokens, like Second Harvest, Sprout Swarm, or Hour of Reckoning, and anthems, like Intangible Virtue, Beastmaster Ascension, Mirari’s Wake, and Collective Plessing. If you like a card that makes tokens, try it out, or if a planeswalker makes tokens, give it a try!

Plant Food and Feeders

1 x Hangarback Walker
1 x Metallic Mimic
1 x Scavenging Ooze
1 x Winding Constrictor
1 x Generous Patron
1 x Ravenous Slime
1 x Twilight Drover
1 x Bloodspore Thrinax
1 x Bloodtracker
1 x Corpsejack Menace
1 x Elenda, the Dusk Rose
1 x Shalai, Voice of Plenty
1 x Archangel of Thune
1 x Juniper Order Ranger
1 x Kalonian Hydra
1 x Loyal Guardian
1 x Mazirek, Kraul Death Priest
1 x Vigor
1 x Hardened Scales
1 x Song of Freyalise
1 x Abzan Ascendancy
1 x Cathars' Crusade
1 x Doubling Season
1 x Primal Vigor
1 x Death's Presence

1 x Animation Module

1 x Parting Thoughts

1 x Gavony Township
1 x Llanowar Reborn
1 x Opal Palace

The second section our cards fall into is +1/+1 counters. This includes cards that add counters, increase or double them, care about the number of counters we have on cards and those that use them as a resource.

Metallic Mimic – This unassuming shapeshifter can add counters to each new creature of a specific type. What this means, in practice, is that we can name Saproling and allow Ghave to grow Saprolings {from} Saprolings. Create a 1/1 with a counter then remove that counter to create a 1/1 with a counter. Self-farming!

Generous Patron, Bloodtracker, and Parting Thoughts – These three cards are card advantage engines of their own, utilizing +1/+1 counters. Generous Patron earns us a card when we offer goodwill, by rewarding us for putting our counters on someone else’s creatures. Bloodtracker draws us cards when he leaves the battlefield based on his held counters, allowing us to load him up with his own ability or another source. We can use him as a beater, cash him in by sacrificing him, or simply have a safety plan if he’s removed by some means. Then Parting Thoughts is an unconditional kill-spell that we can either get random upside by killing a countered-up creature they had or allow us to steal back some of our goodwill by putting counters on something {then} killing it.

Shalai, Voice of Plenty, Archangel of Thune, Juniper Order Ranger, Loyal Guardian, Mazirek, Kraul Death Priest, Vigor, Song of Freyalise, Cathars’ Crusade, and Gavony Township – This deck is loaded with ways of making our go-wide theme a deadly force. Each of these cards counters up our team, but in various ways and with various benefits. Shalai gives us and our creatures and planeswalkers hexproof, Archangel activates off every life-gain instance, Juniper Order Ranger grows massive, Loyal Guardian requires no other input to give us back counters, Mazirek rewards us for doing something we were already doing (and punishes opponents for doing what {they} were already doing), Vigor protects against damage-based wraths a la Blasphemous Act, Song of Freyalise is a ramp card that transitions into ramp payoff, Cathars’ Crusade wins games all on its own, and Gavony Township is a land and therefore hard to remove.
Winding Constrictor, [mtg_card]Corpsejack Menace, Hardened Scales, Doubling Season, and Primal Vigor – Each of these cards acts similar to the value-doubling engines of the token cards, increasing our counter-creation rate. This means cycling things through Ghave can offer us long-term benefits even for just doing one thing over and over again. This also helps turn a team-wide counterfest into a game-winning board state.

Death’s Presence – An expensive enchantment better do something, right? How about make it so, without exile, your board never gets any weaker in total power? Unless you lose all your creatures, or your opponents counter the targets after they’re put on the stack, your total board power doesn’t go down any more. Five 1/1s will become 3 1/1s and a 2/2, meaning a total of five power. This gives off a feeling of hopelessness to your opponents when none of their removal makes the threat any smaller.

Animation Module – The penultimate card in a list of “Deal-With-This-Or-Lose”, second only to Cathars’ Crusade, Animation Module is guaranteed to get out of hand fast. Every time you put a +1/+1 counter on something, you can pay one mana to get a 1/1 Servo. And if that servo comes into play with a counter on it, from something like Metallic Mimic, Bloodspore Thrinax, Juniper Order Ranger or causes a counter to be put somewhere like with Elenda, the Dusk Rose, then you suddenly have a cheap artifact that allows you to make as many 1/1s as you have mana.

The Spice and Additions
Ravenous Slime – A graveyard hate card, that also hoses “dies” triggers as Rest in Peace does, this Slime will stop any of your opponents from getting their dying creatures back. In addition to stopping dead certain strategies, like Aristocrats decks to name one, this unassuming Ooze will also fill itself up with counters. What was once once Ooze will quickly become an army of Saprolings, all while your opponents are losing value rapidly from their own creatures.
If you wanted a more counters-focused deck, more cards that care about counters or power would be a strong inclusion, like Reyhan, Last of the Abzan, Champion of Lambholt, Mycoloth, Abzan Battle Priest and his ilk, Ivorytusk Fortress, more cards that can interact with those counters like Solidarity of Heroes, Contagion Engine, Retribution of the Ancients and Citadel Siege, as well as thinking about some other combat buffs, like Akroma’s Memorial or Eldrazi Monument to make use of your smaller, but stronger, army.

Aristocracy and Side Salads

 

1 x Hangarback Walker
1 x Blood Artist
1 x Slimefoot, the Stowaway
1 x Twilight Drover
1 x Bloodspore Thrinax
1 x Bloodtracker
1 x Elenda, the Dusk Rose
1 x Smothering Abomination
1 x Mazirek, Kraul Death Priest
1 x Skullclamp

1 x Abzan Ascendancy
1 x Attrition
1 x Deathreap Ritual
1 x Death's Presence

1 x Grim Backwoods
1 x Westvale Abbey

The last category our cards fall into is those that care about the death of creatures, be it others or our own. This is a space that we want to take advantage of as using Ghave’s ability to create counters comes at the cost of sacrificing a creature. As we’ve seen so far, the easiest way to form a truly powerful advantage is turn a cost into a benefit.

Blood Artist and Slimefoot, the Stowaway – The easiest way to win the game by sacrificing creatures is to, well, kill our opponents. Slimefoot is a much weaker version of this Aristocrat-style effect but also affords us a mana-sink when we need it and has so far proven useful enough to include even with his focus on Saprolings alone. Blood Artist, however, is a card of a different breed. Threatening to drain an opponent out of the game quickly, this unassuming 0/1 triggers off of any creature death, yours or your opponents. Art certainly can be deadly.

Smothering Abomination – A card much like Mentor of the Meek, being able to get a full turn with this Eldrazi drone will quickly fill your hand with cards. The strength of being able to draw a card each time you sacrifice a creature can’t be understated and there will be turns that you cycle creatures through Ghave just to draw cards, even if you aren’t earning much else. Deathreap Ritual is another card similar to Smothering Abomination, drawing a card at the beginning of each end step of a turn that a creature died. What this means is that you can sacrifice a creature each turn to draw a card each turn.

Attrition – Your opponents better be playing mono-black or holding up enchantment removal for this one. The power of this card is oppressive at best and insurmountable at its worst (for your opponents). Our deck can easily outnumber our opponents, being able to.. actually, both the strength of this card and its use is easily summarized by its flavor text: I will trade life for life with the insurgents. Our resources, unlike theirs, are limitless.

Death’s Presence – This card does create a ton of counters, yet it fits better here. Each time you sacrifice a creature, or one dies of natural causes like combat, you can add its power in counters to a creature you control. This, like a lot of things in our deck, can give a sense of inevitability, as if removal does nothing to us as the power is always under our control.

The Spice and the Additions

For more cards that help an aristocrats, or sacrifice style effects, check out my article on Saint Elenda, the Dusk Rose. You can also include some green cards not available to her, such as Fecundity, Journey to Eternity, Poison-Tip Archer, Meren of Clan Nel Toth, and Greater Good.

Ghave’s Best

These are the cards that appear in each category, playing well with all of our themes. (That is a full-art foil peel rendition I have in my paper deck in the center, featuring the art of Kindercatch.)

Hangarback Walker and Elenda, The Dusk Rose– These cards both generate their own counters, as well as benefitting strongly from being given counters from other sources. In addition, they both die to create tokens based on the counters, or power, they had in life. What this means, then, is that these creatures become massive very quickly and offer you a measure of protection against a board wipe, in addition to offering you a reserve of creatures you can access by sacrificing them at any time. Elenda has the extra benefit of growing each time any creature dies, allowing you to grow her yourself by cycling through Ghave’s abilities.

Twilight Drover – A spirit that grows each time a creature token leaves the battlefield from your control, Twilight Drover also allows you the ability to remove one of those counters to create two spirits. The fact that he starts offering two spirits means one token doubler can mean he’s both halves of a Lingering Souls in one activation. As well, his ability is very self-synergistic, giving you two bodies where there was one death. With enough mana, you can spawn an army of flying spirits from an almost empty board state.

Abzan Ascendancy – This enchantment drops a +1/+1 counter on each creature you control when you first play it, giving you a source to begin creating your tokens from immediately. Abzan Ascendancy also offers protection against removal, replacing any nontoken creature with a spirit token whenever they die. This offers fodder for you to grow creatures, or a way to survive any type of removal, if not just offering you more strength for sacrificing creatures you were going to sacrifice anyway.

Parting Thoughts

Ghave can often feel like a puzzle that can be solved a thousand ways; each piece fits with each other piece in such a seamless way. The end result is a deck that feels like you always have options, always have other lines to take, and to your opponents, it often feels like there isn’t a way to stop the Shaman from overrunning the field, no matter how much they try to prune it.

So tell me, what did you think? Did I offer information you thought was helpful, raise some insights you might not have thought of, miss stuff you thought I should mention, or any other thoughts I didn’t call out? Leave a comment below to let me know, or you can haunt me directly on Twitter (@FrigglishTGhost) or spook my email (AMillionDifferentColors@Gmail.com).
Make sure you join me next week, where I’ll be talking about Nissa! The flip-walker, of course.

Until then, may the Spirit of EDH possess you with creativity.
— Literally a Ghost that Pushes Over Candles

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